Research

A GMO Plant to detoxify polluted air of your house

A research team has demonstrated a genetically modified and modeled hour plant that may reduce the air pollution levels to a significant level. Usually, we use a variety of products to keep our house feel fresh. Vacuuming, sweeping, air filters, diffusers are just a few ways to remove pollutants and allergens from the air.

These practices work well on dust but most of the hazardous particles have no effect even with tools. Their size is too small for these conventional filters to trap them. To get over it, the research team from the University of Washington has genetically modified the pothos ivy plant.

This is a common houseplant and its genetically modified version makes it an ideal air cleaner. The modified variety of the plant removes all volatile organic compounds (VOCs) i.e. benzene and chloroform, from the air.

The findings of this research are published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology and are available to view online.

How does this plant remove toxins from the air?

To study how this plant helps in toxin removal, the researchers used a protein called cytochrome P450 2E1. It is also called “2E1” or “green liver.” This protein is naturally a part of livers in mammals.

The major function of this protein is to break the chemicals like chloroform into small particles so that they can leave the body. The best uses of this 2E1 protein are in alcohol processing.

For this experiment, they created a synthetic model of this same gene which produces 2E1. This gene was later on introduced to pothos ivy in a way that every cell of this plant carries an expression of this protein.

Then this plant was left in a glass tube with either benzene or chloroform gas to check its effectivity. After 11 days, they found that pollutants in glass tube were significantly reduced.

To their surprise, only within three days, the plant reduced chloroform concentration by 82% and in 6 days it was hardly detectable. For benzene, it took eight days for the plant to decrease its concentration by approximately 75%.

In the controlled group, there was no effect on benzene or chloroform by the plant at all.

Harms of air pollutants on human health

Air pollutants are majorly the hazardous emissions from common household products. It includes smoke, paint, cleaning agents, bleaching agents, varnishes etc. Not many people know this but when we are using these products, we are exposing ourselves to high pollutant levels.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes these chemicals to stay in the air for hours and produce harmful effects on human health particularly eye infections, throat infections, liver problems, and kidney damage.

The increased levels of air pollution can cause chronic diseases such as cardiovascular issues, respiratory illness and potentially brain development in children. By using the genetically modified houseplants, we can improve the air quality of our houses.

How to get over air pollutants with Pothos Ivy?

Although pothos ivy can help to clean your house air there are chances to develop an allergy from it. If you experience any such symptom such as skin burning, irritation, or swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat or any other sign, immediately find medical help.

If you know that you are allergic to pothos ivy, you don’t have to experiment with its genetically modified strain. Instead go for other alternatives such as areca palm, lady palm, bamboo palm, and rubber plant that purify the air as well.

In general, it is necessary to improve the air quality when you are spending lots of time indoors. Keep the air fresh and free from allergens by regular vacuuming and cleaning. Do not use products that come with hazardous chemicals and try to use environmentally friendly products.

 

Areeba Hussain

The author is a Medical Microbiologist and a healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. She is an author of six research papers and currently working as a research associate in a Research Lab.

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